Operative Treatment of Lymphedema Using Suction-Assisted Lipectomy

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Surgical management of lymphedema includes removal of affected tissues (excisional procedures), or operations that create new lymphatic connections (physiologic procedures). The purpose of this study was to determine the efficacy of one type of excisional procedure, suction-assisted lipectomy, for extremity lymphedema.


Patients treated in our Lymphedema Program between 2007 and 2015 with liposuction that had postoperative follow-up were reviewed. The diagnosis of lymphedema was made by history/physical examination and confirmed with lymphoscintigraphy. Patient sex, age, type of lymphedema (primary or secondary), location of disease, infection history, volume of lipoaspirate, and reduction of extremity volume were recorded.


Fifteen patients were included, mean age was 45 years (range, 17–71). Six patients had secondary upper extremity lymphedema, and 9 patients had lower limb disease. Eight patients had a history of repeated cellulitis involving the lymphedematous extremity. Mean lipoaspirate volume was 1612 mL (range, 1200–2800) for the upper extremity and 2902 mL (range, 2000–4800) for the lower limb. Postoperative follow-up averaged 3.1 years. The mean reduction in excess extremity volume was 73% (range, 48% to 94%), and patients reported improvement in their quality of life.


Suction-assisted lipectomy is an effective technique to reduce extremity volume for patients with lymphedema.

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